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Emma Ruth Rundle’s Engine of Hell New York City Concert

By Al Nigrin

originally published: 04/11/2023

Emma Ruth Rundle’s Engine of Hell New York City Concert

Patrick Shiroshi and Emma Ruth Rundle playing at Le Poisson Rouge, New York City. Photo by dog @xchgraxrax

I am a relative newcomer to Emma Ruth Rundle’s music but I have been playing her songs almost non-stop since 2022 when I became hooked on Electric Guitar: One which is her first solo album. That led me down the Rundle rabbit hole and I quickly purchased all her oeuvre as well as the albums she made with Thou, Nocturnes, Red Sparowes and Marriages. I was tempted to go see her play live in Toronto and Boston earlier this month, but those shows just didn’t jive with my teaching schedule at Rutgers University. So, it was with great anticipation that I headed to Rundle’s Easter gig at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village. This show was originally planned to be the Tour’s finale, but she added another Boston show due to great demand.

Avant-jazz multi-instrumentalist Patrick Shiroshi opened the show and played a half-hour long work that featured sax loops and audio drones that ebbed and flowed like the wind and the waves. His set started out fairly quiet but built to a frenetic frenzy midway through the piece. Shiroshi also sang and chanted throughout giving his music a solemn tone at various moments. At the end the audience roared with approval, and he was very gracious in accepting these accolades. He mentioned before he left the stage to be ready because “Emma is going to break your hearts.” He was on point with this statement as well.

Emma Ruth Rundle’s Engine of Hell New York City Concert

Emma Ruth Rundle playing at Le Poisson Rouge, New York City. Photo by Al Nigrin

After a half hour break, Emma Ruth Rundle came out sporting a yin-yang black and white jacket that evoked a Pierrot – Harlequin clown-like duality. She also was wearing evocative white and black make-up around her eyes and on her face. After greeting the audience, she mentioned that she was going to play her recent album Engine of Hell from the beginning until the end. This album is much different than her other recordings as it’s very stripped down, with her singing primarily acoustic guitar and piano based songs.  During the concert Rundle referred to the song Dancing Man as being about the memory of a previous love, comparing it to a cherry blossom bud and a snow globe. Engine of Hell is perhaps Rundle’s most personal album with keyhole views into her psyche and her past.

Emma Ruth Rundle’s Engine of Hell New York City Concert

Image from Emma Ruth Rundle’s video of the Engine of Hell song Return.

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The four music videos that accompany the release of Engine of Hell are amazing and feature similar black and white imagery to what Rundle was wearing on stage. Plus, the album cover is reminiscent of an image from Jean Cocteau’s 1950 film Orpheus where Jean Marais, playing Orpheus, is lying on the ground with a mirror reflection creating a dual image.  

Emma Ruth Rundle’s Engine of Hell New York City Concert

Jean Marias as Orpheus in Jean Cocteau’s 1950 film Orpheus.

Rundle has mentioned in previous interviews that on this tour she never plays “any of the songs the same way twice” and that “every performance is unique.” Having checked out her other performances on this tour on YouTube it was apparent that she played this NYC show in a much different way. Being it was Easter and mentioning “he has risen” at one point during the show, it felt as if this performance of Engine of Hell was almost akin to a slow dirge. She delivered her songs in a much more restrained way. The album, which is 41 minutes in length, took almost an hour and ten minutes for her to play it in full with a few minutes of commentary sandwiched in between some of the songs. By slowing down or drawing out of the songs Rundle gave them a more pensive quality and felt like a lament for the dead.

Emma Ruth Rundle’s Engine of Hell New York City Concert

Cover image of Emma Ruth Rundle’s album Engine of Hell.

Highlights of this show, were her renditions of Blooms of Oblivion, Body, Razor’s Edge and her duet with Shiroshi on Citadel.  The audience was also treated to an improve session with Shiroshi doing another duet with Rundle on the album closer In My Afterlife. This was the first time they have performed this song together on this tour. After a rousing round of applause, Rundle played two encore songs. These included: Marked for Death from her album of the same name and a lovely tune from her recent EP Orpheus Looking Back entitled Pump Organ Song. I was sad the concert had ended but it was amazing to see this very talented artist and musician command the space which was reverently silent throughout the show. 

Check out this wonderful and haunting video of Engine of Hell’s opening song Return:

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You can also listen to all of Rundle’s solo work on her Bandcamp page:




Albert Gabriel Nigrin is an award-winning experimental media artist whose work has been screened on all five continents. He is also a Cinema Studies Lecturer at Rutgers University, and the Executive Director/Curator of the Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, Inc.



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